China’s Shenzhou-15 astronauts, or taikonauts, returned to Earth safely on Sunday after an over 180-day mission in the country’s orbiting space station.
The re-entry capsule with the three taikonauts aboard – Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu – touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 6:33 a.m. Beijing Time, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).
The CMSA declared the Shenzhou-15 mission a complete success after the medical team waiting on site confirmed that the trio was in good health.
Fei Junlong, the commander of the mission, was the first to come out of the capsule.
“I’d like to report to my country and people that the Shenzhou-15 crew has successfully completed all the assigned work and tasks in orbit. We have returned to Earth safely. We are feeling good,” he said.
Following Fei, Deng Qingming, operator of the mission, expressed his gratitude to those who made a contribution to the mission.
“My experience of the past 25 years led me to believe in the power of dreams and perseverance, no matter what is my age, I’m always happy because I’m needed by my country,” he said.
Deng, 57, was selected as a member of China’s first-generation astronauts in January 1998, and he was a backup crew member for both the Shenzhou-10 and Shenzhou-11 missions. Shenzhou-15 was his first space mission.
Shenzhou-15 was also the first space mission for Operator Zhang Lu. “Going forward, we’ll first get back in shape as soon as possible and resume training to prepare ourselves for the next mission,” he said after exiting the capsule.
The Shenzhou-15 spaceship was launched in November 2022.
On December 3, 2022, the Shenzhou-15 crew conducted China’s first-ever in-orbit rotation with the Shenzhou-14 astronaut trio.
During their stay at the China Space Station, the three astronauts accomplished four extravehicular activities (EVAs), setting a new record for Chinese astronaut crews in spacewalks.
They also conducted a series of scientific experiments and tests, which included the installation of the extravehicular extension pump set and the cross-cabin cable installation and connection.
The Shenzhou-15 crew, with the highest average age among Chinese astronaut crews, not only achieved a milestone in EVAs, but also witnessed the historic moment when the China Space Station was fully completed by the end of 2022, according to the CMSA.